Rethinking the Game: Alternative Funding for Artists

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The money-soaked arts economy was a boon to many things — huge commissions, a glitzy gallery scene, awe-inspiring auction sales, and Jeff Koons. But, we’ve widely accepted that the party is over. With donors and collectors zipping their wallets, some grim commentators have pronounced this the end of a fertile period for the arts. But for every apocalyptic vision, there is an equally optimistic solution. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that alternative funding strategies exist — artists have been broke for as long as there have been artists at all (we’re imagining neanderthals begging for change in between cave paintings). They’ve also managed to do incredible things in the face of poverty.

Gordon Matta-Clark’s iconic Soho restaurant FOOD was one such example in the ’70s. Not only did it raise money to fund his projects, but it provided a community space for artists to exchange ideas. In the same vein, the collectives and grassroots fundraising vehicles that exist today will continue to gain importance as the economy shifts. They may also succeed in bringing a little community spirit back to a largely (excuse the melodrama) soulless art world. Read on for a list of our favorite guerrilla arts organizations.

1. FEAST (Funding Emerging Artists with Sustainable Tactics): FEAST is a Brooklyn-based public dinner party where the cost of admission goes to fund an artist proposal voted on by the attendees of the dinner. Flavorwire attempted to attend on last Saturday but, sadly, arrived too late…

2. Sweet Tooth of the Tiger: Founded by NYU grad student and native New Yorker Tracy Candido, Sweet Tooth of the Tiger offers a “bake sale residency” program in which an artist operates a bake sale at an arts event for a couple of hours and pockets most of the earnings to fund a project. Like FEAST, Candido holds the bake sales in the hopes that they will spark conversation and foster community.

3. Fractured Atlas: This organization scores points for being very practical in a sometimes spacey field. Using a profitable software company based out of their headquarters, Fractured Atlas provides funding, business guidance and (gasp) health care to participating artists.

4. InCUBATE (Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday): While its acronym might be a mouthful, InCUBATE similarly funds artist and community projects with money raised at their Sunday-Soup Brunches.

Who are we missing? We’d love your help in adding to the list; leave us your favorite organizations — with a link to their Web site, if possible — in the comments.